We’ve all heard of castles and stately homes having a White Lady, or a Grey Lady. I’ve already written about the Grey Lady of the Newcastle Assembly Rooms. Based on that fact, I’d made the point on Twitter that spectral ladies often appear as pink, white, or grey. Lots of people told me they’d also encountered Green Lady ghost stories as well! One of my awesome subscribers sent me loads of super useful information (thanks, Laura!). So naturally, I had to investigate further!
In this post, we’ll encounter five Green Lady ghosts and examine where the stories may have come from. Or hit play below to hear the podcast episode!
So what IS a Green Lady?
For some, the Green Lady is a nature elemental, much like a brownie, and they’re exclusive to the UK. For others, she has some crossover with the glaistig of Scottish legend. The glaistig is a form of spirit usually found in the Highlands. The link with the name appears through an alternative name for the glaistig—the maighdean uaine, or Green Maiden.
According to Fiona Broome, the glaistig refers to women who were “the mistress of a house”. These enchanted women “dislike dogs, prefer to be alone, protect houses, and favor fools and people ‘of weak intellect'” (2008).
Despite that slightly negative description, these benevolent spirits protect a home and the family within, much like the Irish banshee. But unlike the banshee, when the family moves on, the Green Lady remains. She then protects the next family to move in. This makes her much more situational, and more connected with the land and property than individual families.
Apparently, farmers strongly believed in Green Ladies and thought these spirits protected their cattle. In these tales, the ladies led cattle to shelter before a storm broke, or stopped them from being stolen.
In some legends, the Green Lady also links with water. She turns up at a home, soaked to the skin, and asking for shelter (Pelham 2016). If the family let her in so she can warm up, she stays and protects their home. I can’t find any mention of what she does if they say no, so we’ll just assume she moves on to the next house.
But why does she appear in green?
In one version of the legend, the glaistig was a mortal noblewoman. In some tales, fairies grant her wish to become one of them. In others, a fairy curses her and she ends up an immortal being with the legs of a goat. The flowing dress hides these bestial legs. I have no idea why that would translate into a green dress but there you go.
Some believe the spirit is simply that of a woman who died while wearing a green dress and spends eternity sporting the colour. I found it easier to find examples of this latter interpretation, so without further ado, let’s go and visit five Scottish and Welsh castles that host a resident Green Lady…
1 – The Green Lady of Stirling Castle
Stirling Castle boasts several coloured spirits, but we’re going to focus on the Green Lady. She’s believed to be a servant to Mary Queen of Scots. One version of the story bestows the servant with the second sight, whose premonition of disaster made her fearful for the Queen’s safety.
Grateful to the people of Stirling for their help in the past, the Queen allowed her to spend the night in her bed-chamber to watch over her. The maid lit a taper to hold the darkness at bay but dozed off. The smell of smoke and brightness of the flames woke the servant up, but she struggled to wake the Queen. Thankfully she managed to get her out of the room, but many believe the flames licking at her own green dress caused wounds she couldn’t survive (Stirling Ghost Walk 2009).
She’s been seen around the castle and some speculate she’s looking for her mistress.
Another legend says the Green Lady was the daughter of a Commander at the Castle. She was also having an affair with one of the soldiers in her father’s command. When her father had the soldier shot, she threw herself from the Elphinstone Tower.
Stirling Castle also has a Pink Lady, who walks from Stirling Castle to the Church of the Holyrood. Some believe she’s a war widow looking for her husband, yet others suggest she’s Mary Queen of Scots herself.
Whichever coloured lady you see, be careful you don’t look in their eyes. The legend notes you’ll never see another dawn if you do…
2 – The Green Lady of Caerphilly Castle
Gilbert de Clare built this 13th-century castle in Mid-Glamorgan, Wales. Gilbert married a French princess, Alice of Angouleme. A knight, Gruffudd the Fair, visited the castle and caught Alice’s eye. The pair became lovers until Gruffudd confessed the relationship to a monk.
The two-faced friar told Gilbert about the affair, who sent Alice back to France and hanged Gruffudd. When Gilbert sent word to Alice about her lover’s execution, she dropped dead of shock. Despite being in France at the time, her spirit now haunts Caerphilly Castle, clad in a green gown that some believe represents Gilbert’s envy.
If you do pop along to Caerphilly Castle, pay attention to the ramparts. Most of the sightings occur there, so perhaps Alice still trudges back and forth, awaiting the return of Gruffudd’s spirit.
3 – The Green Lady of Crathes Castle
The 16th-century Crathes Castle in Aberdeenshire boasts its own Green Lady. She paces back and forth in a single room near the fireplace. Sometimes she appears alone, other times she holds an infant. Even Queen Victoria witnessed her (VisitScotland, no date). The Queen reported seeing a green mist float across a room. It picked up a child-sized spectral figure and the pair disappeared into the fireplace (The Scotsman 2016).
No one knows who she is. As with many female ghosts, some believe she was a 17th-century servant who became pregnant. As an unmarried woman, pregnant by one of the Burnett family, she didn’t have a great future in front of her. Or did she have a future at all? In the 1800s, workmen discovered the skeletons of a woman and child beneath the hearthstones during renovations (The Scotsman 2016).
Visitors note a sense of dread or extreme cold when they enter her room. If she’s seen, it can herald danger, or even death, for the Burnett family. It’s a bit worrying then that a family in 2016 thought they might have captured her in the background of a family snap!
If you want to see what the room looks like, check out this short video by VisitScotland.com.
4 – The Green Lady of Fyvie Castle
Another entry for Aberdeenshire, Fyvie Castle boasts a rather sad Green Lady. In the 13th century, Thomas the Rhymer, a seer and bard, predicted no male heir would be born at Fyvie. For six centuries, this turned out to be the case; the only sons were born at other castles.
According to legend, Dame Lillias Drummond arrived at the castle in 1592, but she only bore her husband, Lord Seton, daughters. Lord Seton planned to marry a younger woman in his search for an heir, and starved Dame Lillias to death in the Douglas Room. Others say he poisoned her.
The legend further claims that scratching noises and heavy sighs outside the chamber window accompanied the wedding night of Lord Seton and his second wife. The words ‘D LILIAS DRUMMOND’ had been carved upside down on the sill outside. Bear in mind the window was 50ft above the ground.
The Setons lost Fyvie to the Gordons, who saw Lillias as a harbinger of doom, much like the Green Lady at Crathes. Various family members died after sightings of the Green Lady, even as late as 1925.
Some sightings report her figure bears a skeletal face, while others see only a normal woman. In all cases, she wears green or is accompanied by a green hue. Visitors report cold spots or overwhelming feelings of sadness in the Douglas Room. She sometimes announces her presence with the scent of rose petals.
5 – The Green Lady of Skipness Castle
Skipness Castle stands by Loch Fyne on the Kintyre peninsula. Construction began in the early 13th century. But later owners added to the building up until the 16th century. This Green Lady protects the house and has done so for centuries.
In one tale, a rival clan planned to attack the castle. The Green Lady used her supernatural powers to confuse them. They scattered and left the area. Their wits only returned when they left the area. The clan tried to head back to the castle, but the confusion also returned.
She’s described as being child-sized with blonde hair. A helpful spirit, she cleaned and tidied around the castle, even feeding the hens. Though her slightly obsessive nature led her to allegedly almost kill a man for sleeping in the wrong bed.
The castle has stood empty since the 17th century. Who knows what the Green Lady gets up to these days?
Have you ever seen a Green Lady or heard tales of one? Let me know below!
Broome, Fiona (2008), ‘Scottish Ghosts – Where to Find a ‘Green Lady’, Hollow Hill, https://hollowhill.com/scotland-find-green-lady/.
Pelham, Libby (2016), ‘The Green Lady’, Spooky Stuff, http://www.spookystuff.co.uk/thegreenlady.html.
Stirling Ghost Walk (2009), ‘The Green Lady of Stirling Castle’, Stirling Ghost Walk, https://www.stirlingghostwalk.com/tales/the-green-lady-of-stirling-castle.
The Newsroom (2016), ‘Is this Crathes Castle’s ‘Green Lady’ ghost captured on camera?’, The Scotsman, https://www.scotsman.com/whats-on/arts-and-entertainment/crathes-castles-green-lady-ghost-captured-camera-610576.
Visit Scotland (no date), ‘The Green Lady of Crathes Castle’, Visit Scotland, https://ebooks.visitscotland.com/ghosts-myths-legends/tales-on-tapes/.
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